Friday, December 28, 2007

Discovering Love and the Filipino: A Kind of Burning by Ophelia Dimalanta

it is perhaps because
one way or the other
we keep this distance
closeness will tug as apart
in many directions
in absolute din
how we love the same
trivial pursuits and
insignificant gewgaws
spoken or inert
claw at the same straws
pore over the same jigsaws
trying to make heads or tails
you take the edges
i take the center
keeping fancy guard
loving beyond what is there
you sling at the stars
i bedeck the weeds
straining in song or
profanities towards some
fabled meeting apart
from what dreams read
and suns dismantle
we have been all the hapless
lovers in this wayward world
in almost all kinds of ways
except we never really meet
but for this kind of burning.

Love sometimes thrives more in distance, rather than in closeness--- in projections, fantasies, images produced by the mind to make up for the lack of contact. Ironically, an abundance of contact, that destroys this preconceived images, can hamper the love based on these images.

Love thrives on the fight to be close but when the two lovers have achieved this closeness, the fight can turn towards the opposite direction.

Discovering Love and The Filipino: Bonsai by Edith L. Tiempo

I post here Edith Tiempo's poem immediately followed by Linda Sue Grime's reading of it. Like I said, some selections that should have been taken up in our last few meetings should just be taken up in brief. Instead of scheduling a make up class due to the class disruptions brought about by extra curricular activities such as the HRM event (SCOR-4H5?), Outreach activities(1POL), parties, etc, it would now be our responsibility to catch up (especially those clases affected.) I post the texts, my researches, old lectures and readings. You read, assimilate and understand and prepare for the major quiz and major exam :)


All that I love
I fold over once
And once again
And keep in a box
Or a slit in a hollow post
Or in my shoe.

All that I love?
Why, yes, but for the moment-
And for all time, both.
Something that folds and keeps easy,
Son's note or Dad's one gaudy tie,
A roto picture of a queen,
A blue Indian shawl, even
A money bill.

It's utter sublimation,
A feat, this heart's control
Moment to moment
To scale all love down
To a cupped hand's size

Till seashells are broken pieces
From God's own bright teeth,
And life and love are real
Things you can run and
Breathless hand over
To the merest child.

Edith L. Tiempo's poem, "Bonsai," consists of four verse paragraphs; the lines are short and unrimed. The poem dramatizes the speaker's method of controlling emotions.

First Verse Paragraph: “All that I love”
In the first verse paragraph, the speaker claims enigmatically that she folds up everything she loves and places it “in a box / Or a slit in a hollow post / Or in my shoe.” At first, the speaker’s claims seem a little silly; placing a little note that you love all folded up into a “hollow post” does not resonate, especially when in the next line she claims she might also place the item in her shoe.

Second Verse Paragraph: “All that I love?”
Interestingly, the speaker anticipates being questioned about her statement, “All that I love.” So she makes a little pretense at answering the question, resulting in a flip-flop; she says she keeps those little items that she loves in these unusual places only “for the moment.” No, not only for the moment, but “for all time.” No, not just for all time but “for the moment” and “for all time.”

Then the speaker lists a few things that represent “Something that folds and keeps easy”: “Son's note or Dad's one gaudy tie, / A roto picture of a queen, / A blue Indian shawl, even / A money bill.” These are some of the things that speaker claims she folds up and keep in a box, a hollow post, or her shoe. At this point, the reader is intrigued by such a claim. Why the emphasis on shrinking things? Why the necessity of folding a hording in small places?

Third Verse Paragraph: “It's utter sublimation”
In the third verse paragraph, the reader learns that the speaker likes to fold things up because she wants “To scale all love down / To a cupped hand's size.” She called her “folding” up of things she loves an act of “sublimation.” She has the need to purify and control her own emotions.

It is with this verse paragraph that the title, “Bonsai,” becomes clear: the speaker needs to contain her emotions in a way similar to the horticulturist who contains the tree that becomes a dwarf of itself.

Fourth Verse Paragraph: “Till seashells are broken pieces”
Those things that fold—notes, ties, shawls, money—merely represent valuable things that in turn represent the speaker’s emotions. Emotions can be wild and uncontrollable and lead one grossly astray, but if one can sublimate them, shrink them down, and control them as the gardener does the “Bonsai,” then the speaker can control her own life, and her life and love “[will become] real / Things [she] can run and / Breathless hand over /To the merest child.”

The speaker wants to be able to explain her life and love even to a very young child; thus, she folds up her life in poems and keeps them orderly, ready to “hand over.”

Looking at War and the Filipino

People in the War and Wilderness of Sweets by Gilda Cordero Fernando are stories set during World War II, but they are a far cry from the conventional war tale, which would emphasize scenes of battles, acts of heroism or cowardice and political choices.

These stories are about being at war, but they are not about fighting in it. They are about surviving in it.

Unlike the conventional war stories, People in the War and Wilderness of Sweets do not have anything to do with the combatants. There are no characters who are soldiers. The Japanese have but shadowy presence until the last part of the story, when they become simply nameless, insane butchers. The Americans do not even make an appearance. The political reasons for the war are never mentioned. The focus is on the travails of the civilian population.

The fact that the narrator is an adolescentmakes this plausible, enables the writer to concentrate on the story she wishes to tell.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How To Write a Critical Paper


Ask Four Basic Questions as You Read:
1) What is the book/story/poem/chapter about as a whole?
2) What is the author saying about the food in detail, and how is it said?
3) Is it true, in whole or in part?
4) What is the significance of the work?


Ask Four Basic Questions as You Read:
1) What is the book/story/poem/chapter about as a whole?
2) What is the author saying about travel in detail, and how is it said?
3) Is it true, in whole or in part?
4) What is the significance of the work?

The following is a general structure to follow for the body of a critical paper. Be sure to include a suitable introduction and conclusion. Adapt it to specific assignments as appropriate.

Classify the material according to kind and subject matter.
Very briefly, state what the whole of the material is about.
Define the problem or problems that the author/speaker is trying to solve.

Find the important words (terms) in the book/message and determine the author’s meaning of these terms, with precision.
Identify the most important sentences (propositions) in the material, the ones that express the judgments on which the whole book/message rests. These are the foundational affirmations and denials of the author/speaker. They must be either premises or conclusions. State them in your own words.

Construct the author’s/speaker’s arguments, beginning with any assumptions and/or self-evident propositions. An argument is the author’s/speaker’s line of reasoning aimed at demonstrating the truth or falsehood of his or her claims, that is, the coherent series of reasons, statements, or facts that support or establish a point of view. If the arguments are not explicitly expressed in the material, you will need to construct them from sequences of sentences.


General Pointers.
From this point on, you will have a chance to argue with the author/speaker and express yourself, but keep in mind the following general maxims of scholarly etiquette:

Do not say that you agree, disagree, or suspend judgment until you have adequately interpreted the work being criticized. Do not begin criticism until you are able to say, with reasonable certainty, “I understand,” i.e., I have done an adequate job with parts one and two. Complete the task of understanding before rushing in.

When you disagree, do so reasonably and not contentiously.

Demonstrate that you know the difference between knowledge and personal opinion by presenting good reasons for any critical judgments that you make.
Three conditions must be satisfied if controversy is to be well conducted:
Make an attempt at impartiality by reading/listening sympathetically.
Acknowledge any emotions that you bring to the dispute.
State your own assumptions explicitly.

Determine, wherever possible, the origins and the consequences of the author’s/speaker’s arguments.

Try to locate the origins of the author’s/speaker’s ideas in the larger picture of history. What movements, currents of thought, or other thinkers might have influenced him or her? Then carry the author’s/speaker’s ideas to their logical conclusions. To the best of your ability and given the academic background that you already possess, relate the author’s/speaker’s ideas to those of other authors with whom you are familiar.

Judge the soundness of the author’s/speaker’s arguments.
As called for, show where the author/speaker is uninformed. To support your remarks, you must be able to state the knowledge that the author/speaker lacks and show how it is relevant, i.e., how it affects the conclusions.

As called for, show where the author/speaker is misinformed, where assertions are made that are contrary to fact. This kind of defect should be pointed out only if it is relevant to the conclusions. To support your remark, you must be able to argue the truth or greater probability of a position contrary to the author’s.

As called for, show where the author/speaker is illogical, where there are fallacies in reasoning. In general fallacies are of two sorts. There is the non sequitur, which means that the conclusion simply does not follow for the reasons that are offered. Then there is the problem of inconsistency, which means that two things the author/speaker has tried to say are incompatible. To make either of these criticisms, you must be able to show the precise respect in which the author’s/speaker’s argument fails to be forcibly convincing. Be concerned with this defect only if major conclusions are affected by it.
In addition, show where the author/speaker fails to draw any conclusions that are implied by the evidence given or principles involved.
If you have not been able to show that the author/speaker is uninformed, misinformed or illogical on relevant matters, you simply cannot disagree. You must agree, at least in part, although you may suspend judgment on the whole. If you have been convinced, you should admit it. If, despite your failure to support one or more of these critical points, you still honestly feel unconvinced, perhaps you should not have said that you understood in the first place!

Engage the key idea(s) that are most provocative and alive for you. Consider how your experience is similar to or different from what you read. Identify any spiritual issues as they arose for you and your way of responding to or struggling with them. Describe which key ideas, if any, might be applied in your area of discipline.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Seminar Paper Reminders for my Political Science students

A seminar is a small group of students and teachers.

A seminar paper is a record of what you say to the group about a topic you have studied.

Preparing a seminar paper gives you practice in technical writing which will help you when you write your thesis.

The title of your seminar paper should state your topic exactly in the smallest possible number of words.

Author's Name
Put your name (family name first), your ID number, the name of your department, and the name of the university under the title.

The abstract should state the most important facts and ideas in your paper. It should be complete in itself. The abstract should state clearly:
· the problem studied,
· the method used,
· the main results,
· the main conclusions.

Do not put information in the abstract, which is not in the main text of your paper. Do not put references, figures, or tables in the abstract.

The main text of your paper should be divided into sections, each with a separate heading.

The first section should be an introduction to your topic. This section should review the background of your topic and give an outline of the contents of your paper.

You should get the information for your paper from various sources, such as books, journals, lecture notes, etc. You must write the paper yourself using this information. You must not copy text written by other authors. Instead, select only the information you need and summarize this information in your own words.

The final section of your paper should summarize your conclusions.

You must give references to all the information that you obtain from books, papers in journals, and other sources. References may be made in the main text using index numbers in brackets.

Put a list of references, numbered as in the main text, at the end of your paper. The information you give in this list must be enough for readers to find the books and papers in a library or a data base.

For a journal paper give:
1. the names of the authors,
2. the year of publication,
3. the title of the paper,
4. the title of the journal,
5. the volume number of the journal,
6. the first and last page numbers of the paper.

For a book give:
1. the author,
2. the year of publication,
3. the title, and the edition number if there is one,
4. the name of the publisher,
5. the page numbers for your reference.

For an internet reference give:
1. the author of the web page,
2. the date of the web page,
3. the title of the web page,
4. the complete URL.

Every reference in your main text must appear in the list at the end of your paper, and every reference in the list must be mentioned in your main text.
Recommended Procedure for Writing a Paper
1. Write your title first. This will define your topic clearly and focus your mind on exactly what you want the paper to contain.
2. Search the literature and select the references on which the contents of your paper will be based. Write your list of references.
3. Make a list of your section headings and subheadings. This list will define the organization of the contents of your paper. The sections and subsections will contain not only material collected from other sources but also accounts of new work you have done: -- your observations, analysis of data, and conclusions.
4. Write the sections and subsections one by one in a simple clear style. Remember that the reader does not know in advance any of the details of the work you have done, so your account must be complete and easy to understand.
5. Write the abstract last by picking out the main points in your paper.

Font: Arial Unicode MS. Size 10
Spacing: Double spaced
No less than 5 pages
Paper: short bond

You will submit the paper on January 7. Please email me the file as in line text and as attachment by January 10, 2007. The title of the seminar paper should be on the subject line followed by your name (ex. Subject: Searching the Filipino Identity in F. Sionil Jose’s The God Stealer by Luis Asistio) No late papers will be accepted. The critical paper is 50 points and will be credited to your quizzes for the PRELIM.

The God Stealer: Filipino Identity in Fiction

The story God Stealer, like F. Sionil Jose's other novels concentrates on the debilitating effect of the colonial rule in the Filipino identity formation.

The story begins with two officemates Philip Latak (an Ifugao from the Mountain Province now working in Manila) and Sam Cristie, an American on the bus to Baguio.

Philip (Ip-pig) now lives in Manila against the wishes of his immediate family, particularly his grandfather who intended to bequeth to Philip his share of the famous rice terraces. They are on their way to Baguio for one purpose: Sam wants to buy a genuine Ifugao god as souvenir and Philip was to help him find an authentic one through his local connections.

Philip is a Christian who no longer has any respect or affection for the Ifugao customs and religion.

He considers himself a city boy and has no inclination to return to mountain life. Despite this attitude, his grandfather is pleased to see him and decides to throw a big party in his honor. On the day of the party, Sam and Philip discover that no Ifugao is willing to sell his god. And as a last resort, Philip offers to steal the god of his grandfather because he feels it would be his way of showing his gratitude to Sam for giving him a rise at work. The consequences of this act are severe.

The next day, his grandfather died because he discovered that his god was stolen. He also informs Sam that Philip will no longer be going back to Manila. Curious, Sam looks for Philip and find him working in his grandfather's house. Philip poignantly explains his reasons for choosing to stay in the mountains:

"I could forgive myself for having stolen it. But the old man- he had always been wise, Sam. He knew that it was I who did it from the very start. He wanted so much to believe that it wasn't I. But he couldn't pretend - and neither can I. I killed him, Sam. I killed him because I wanted to be free from these. These cursed terraces. Because I wanted to be grateful. I killed him who loved me most.." a faltering and stifled sob.

In the dark hut, Sam noticed that Philip is now attired in G-string, the traditional costume of the Ifugao. Furthermore, Philip is busy carving another idol, a new god to replace the old one which Sam will take to America as a souvenir.

Philip's repudiation of his Ifugao heritage may be extrapolated to mean that Filipino's rejection of his own roots and its replacement with colonial values.

Philip- Philippines
Sam- American (Uncle Sam)

It is significant that Philip steals the God for Sam out of gratitude.

Thus is it the Filipino gave up his most precious symbol of his past traditions to the Americans as an expression of gratitude?

And by giving this symbol away, the Filipino murders his own roots. Again, we see Jose's thesis:

The colonial culture has been a negative force in the Philippine History and hence, the tru Filipino is the tribal Filipino, or the poor Filipino least touched by colonial culture.

Jose presents the Filipino as confused, emotionally disturbed and helpless, plagued by the fact that he repudiated his past, or that he could not do anything to help the suffering.


Symbolic of the foreigner's exploitation and imperialistic ambitions on the Filipino.

More Notes on May Day Eve

Reading Nick Joaquin’s May Day Eve brings to mind stories told us as children. But the second reading of the story, and a closer reading at that, will not only reveal Joaquin’s fine craft but his lofty ideas as well.

May Day Eve is the magic night, proper time to consult oracles, hold séances. Certain rites and runes are supposed to enable you at midnight to behold in a mirror the face of the person fated to be yours love.

The plot of the summary may be simple enough.

In one part, Joaquin intends to present the circumstances of Aqueda describing her encounter with the devil in the mirror to her young daughter. The child is keen in fact sees a similarity of his father to the description of the devil by her mother. The ambiguity of Aqueda weeping towards the end renders innumerable possibilities.

In yet another part Joaquin is more determined to show the circumstances of Don Badoy Montiya’s recollection of seeing a witch in the mirror. Teary eyed, he recalls to his grandson that he saw standing before the mirror the witch.

Som have been guilty of looking at the story as a simple tale for little children, but Joaquin aims at something grander and loftier. His attention to present a man and a woman holding on to love until the death of them is worthy of note. His intention to exhibit the hazy romance of the old world, the quiet consummation of their love, itself an elevated thought, is a result of his great imaginative power.

The sexual overtones in the story are forgivable only because Joaquin aimed at a higher purpose. He is not only brave enough to make the suggestion but he is also dignified to scale those dangerous heights in good taste.

Initially, one is propelled to feel connection especially if one has been told of age-old ritual, but it is even true that you will at once be enthralled by it at first reading. The beauty of Joaquin’s language at once moves you.

Joaquin generously employed the figures of speech.

Many a times, Joaquin chose to repeat for amplification. This he intends to produce familiarity. He writes the following lines to begin the story so as to suggest a mood of the old world.

“…looked out upon the medieval shadows of the foul street where a couple of street-lamps flickered an a last carriage was rattling away upon the cobbles, while the blind black houses muttered hush-hush, their tiled roofs looming like sinister chessboards against a wild sky with clouds, save where an evil old moon prowled about in a corner or where a murderous wind whirled, whistling and whining, smelling now of the sea and now of the summer orchards and wafting unbearable Maytime memories of an old, old love…Guardia sereno-o-o! Alas dice han dado-o-o!”

He repeats exactly the same description of the foul street towards the end of the story to encourage the reader to remember the mood and promote further transport. The story should leave an impression that last even after the story has been put away.

Also note his asyndeton, his rapid flow of words with occasional stops.

“The ball had been in their honor: and they had waltzed and polka-ed and bragged and swaggered and flirted all night and were in no mood to sleep yet-no, caramba, not on this moist tropic eve! Not on this mystic May eve! – with the night still young and so seductive that it was madness not to go out, not to go forth..”

In fact, this beautiful word arrangement even if it is quite apart from the natural flow of words did not fail the computer auto-correction. As it is being typed in my computer, the program offered no automatic grammar correction at all!
May Day Eve immediately brings transport. His choice and striking words wonderfully attracts and enthralls.

“Mirror, mirror,
show to me
her whose lover
I will be.”

Joaquin’s phrasing not only used the words most striking but breathes life into what seem to be non-living as well consequently lending the work its delicious ambiguity and double meanings.

“She bewitched me and she tortured me. He ate my heart and drank by blood.”

Some Notes on May Day Eve

The following notes from May Day Eve were gathered from different blog sources:

The catholic imagination filters anything pleasurable and beautiful and luxuriant as tempting and therefore evil. Not surprisingly, the central characters in May Day Eve were both young, good looking, at the prime of their (sexual) lives and therefore teetering on the edge of sin. Which brings us to why evil is often represented as a beautiful temptress or as an extremely attractive man always ready to seduce you, or even as a highly coveted, rare object that can give you power, prestige or wealth (think Friday the 13th, Bedazzled, etc., Decadent Chociolate, a sinful treat.)

possible central idea

eventually, husband and wife will realize that they are married to the devil and the witch

a cynical assessment of marital relations (but I hope that we all prove this wrong when our own time comes)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Readings for the 6th Week

Theme: Filipino and Tradition

May Day Eve by Nick Joaquin
The God Stealer by F. Sionil Jose

More Readings on Merlinda Bobis' Sadness Collector

From Thread: The Sadness Collector
Author: Maria Nastassja Cordero AB Political Science

The story represents the importance of the specific roles played by each of the members of a Filipino family. It is evident that a mother and a father in a Filipino family tends to have a very distant role to perform in the household. The father should be the bread-winner while the mother should stay at home taking care of the kids. In the story The Sadness Collector they have seemed to break tradition. The mother went to Paris to work and actually be the bread winner while the father, although still working, stayed at home with Rica. In the absence of the mother, the Filipino perspective that the mother is the best person who can look out for the welfare of her child/children was represented in the story seeing Rica as a confused and disturbed child because her mom is not by her side. The father was so hard to connect with Rica because of the reason that it was hard for himself to accept the fact that he had to stay with his child which is for him is not his real role. Seeing this situation, I can say that a Filipino family tends to be more patriarchal and breaking this tradition seemed to be, for the many, ruining of the family. What is also evident here in this selection is the perspective of the very big role played by the mother in the Filipino family, they keep family ties and a child without a mother by his/her side tends to grow out of the way, being an incomplete person inside.

From Thread: The Sadness Collector
Post: The Heck on "The Sadness Collector"
Author: Ivanheck Gatdula AB Political Science

At first glance "The Sadness Collector" seems to be your typical story of a Filipino family, one of which we see on movies. The mother goes to a foreign country, leaving her children behind, while taking care of a stranger's child with the intent to give a comfortable living for the family. However, what seems to be the typical story may be classified as a "daily tragedy", Merlinda Bobis depicted the corroding of what is said to be the essence of a Filipino family, "Close Knitted Family Bonds". Young girls usually steps within the shadows of their mother, but Rica not like most girls, lost the chance in her growing years. Suffering a great loss from the physical distance of the mother from Paris, to the eventual emotional distance of the father, who refuses to read her mother's letter an and answer the questions about the baby pictures. In this story it is now obvious that the effects is focused on Rica, a model of every Filipino child that never/forgot feeling of the loving touch of their mothers. In Merlinda Bobis' "poetic" short story leaves an alarming message, a child who lost the joy of being her mother's daughter, Filipino family seized of its very essence - what do we do now?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Lecture: The Sadness Collector

Lecture: The Sadness Collector
A Reading of Merlinda Bobis' The Sadness Collector

And she will not stop eating, another pot, another plate, another mouthful of sadness, and she will grow bigger and bigger, and she will burst.

Notice the transition of thought in the story. No familiar marks to separate the different thoughts within the story, not even quotation marks or italics.

What is the point of view of the story? What is its focus?

The sentences are clipped and the bedtime story (or whatever story it is that Rica’s father made up) weaves in and out, leaving the readers with only enough bits and pieces to make out that the main protagonist is a troubled little girl of six. The reader must stay attentive to grasp everything that is going on.

We even see some art sketches in this story.

snippets of bedtime stories, the central conciousness of Rica, the gossips of aunties intertwined with the philosophical descriptions of the omnicient narrator cleverly brings us to an understanding of this poignant story of a disturbed little girl and her displaced family.

As soon as Rica’s mother left for Paris to work as a domestic helper, her father has since repeatedly told her the story of the Big Lady (supposedly an imaginary creature who goes to collect any traces of sadness in everyone’s kitchen) to distract or divert her loneliness.

The Big Lady "goes from house to house and eats the sadness in many houses, it just keeps on growing each day, so she can’t stop eating, and can’t stop growing too."

"…checking the plates now, lifting the lid off the rice pot, peeking into cups for sadness, both overt and unspoken."

We see the psychological effect that the madeup story and the mother’s absence had on Rica:
Since Rica was three, when her father told her about Big Lady just after mother left for Paris, she has always listened intently to all the night-noises from the kitchen. No, that sound is not the scurrying of mice – she’s actually checking the plates now, lifting the lid off the rice pot, peeking into cups for sadness, both overt and unspoken.

What about the taste of salt in the following lines?

To Rica, it always tastes really salty, like tears, even her father’s funny look each time she asks him to read her again the letters from Paris.

Perhaps, she’s licking a spoon for any trace of saltiness, searching between the prongs of a fork. Unknown to Rica, Big Lady is wise, an old hand in this business. She senses that there’s more to a mouthful of sadness than meets the tongue. A whisper of salt, even the smallest nudge to the palate, can betray a century of hidden grief. Perhaps, she understands that, for all its practice, humanity can never conceal the daily act of futility at the dinner table.

(this despite her efforts to conceal her loneliness)

The Sadness Collector AKA Big Lady became Rica’s very defense mechanism, "an ambivalent relationship, confusing, but certainly a source of comfort."

Fascination, fear and a kinship drawn from trying to save each other. Big Lady saves Rica from sadness; Rica saves Big Lady from bursting by not being sad. An ambivalent relationship, confusing, but certainly a source of comfort. And always Big Lady as object of attention. Those days when Rica drew stick-drawings of her, she made sure the big one was always adorned with pretty baubles and make-up. She even drew her with a Paris ribbon to tighten her belly. Then she added a chic hat to complete the picture.

It is at this point where we are made to wonder who was the SHE being referred to in beginning of the story (if we are to get that as Rica gets older – hence – bigger, she will not be able to contain her sadness, that she will burst.

Things change with time, children grow up, old tales become boring, and sadness will not always be contained…

Bobis prepared us for this, hence

"Unknown to Rica, Big Lady is wise, an old hand in this business. She senses that there’s more to a mouthful of sadness than meets the tongue. A whisper of salt, even the smallest nudge to the palate, can betray a century of hidden grief. Perhaps, she understands that, for all its practice, humanity can never conceal the daily act of futility at the dinner table."

* * * * *

"Nowadays, her father makes sure he comes home late each night, so he won’t have to answer questions, especially about the baby photograph. So he need not improvise further on this three-year-old tall tale."

This part reveals the seriousness in the situation of the family. We come to realize that Rica’s father is now in denial, we are made to speculate on the affairs of the mother and then we are brought back to Rica’s tight-spot.

That’s the rice pot being overturned–

Her breaths make and unmake a hillock on the sheets -

A plate shatters on the floor –

Back to a foetal curl, knees almost brushing chin –

Another plate crashes –

She screams –

The pot is hurled against the wall –

She keeps screaming as she runs out of the bedroom, down to the kitchen –

And the cutlery, glasses, cups, more plates –

Big Lady’s angry, Big Lady’s hungry, Big Lady’s turning the house upside down –

Breaking it everywhere –

Her throat is weaving sound, as if it were all what is ever knew –


Big Lady wants to break all to get to the heart of the matter, where it’s saltiest. In the vein of a plate, within the aluminium bottom of a pot, in the copper fold of a spoon, deep in the curve of a cup’s handle –

Ropes and ropes of scream –


Her cheek stings. She collapses on the floor before his feet.

"I didn’t mean to. Dios ko po, I never meant to –

"Her dazed eyes make out the broken plates, the dented pot, the shards of cups, glasses, the cutlery everywhere –

He’s hiccupping drunkenly all over her –

"I didn’t mean to, Rica, I love you, baby, I’ll never let you go."

His voice hoarse with anger and remorse.

"She came back, Papa "

"She can’t take you away from me –"

"She’s here again – "

"Just because she’s ‘legal’ now – "

"She might burst, Papa – "

"That whore - !"

His hands curl into fists on her back.

Big Lady knows, has always known. This feast will last her a lifetime, if she does not burst tonight.

What does Bobis mean by these last lines?

It seems particularly appropriate to be taking Merlinda Bobis’ short story Sadness Collector to students who sooner or later will relocate by migration (or immigration), hoping they will not be displaced in their own respective 'Diasporas'.

The theme of diaspora, dislocation and displacement resurface in different guises throughout Bobis text - from the hybridity of language and food that emerge from the melding of different cultures that occurs during the process of migration, especially in 'The Sadness Collector' in which the problems of a young girl raised by her father while her mother honours overseas contracts abroad are poignantly and, at times, brutally heightened.


Please Log in DISCUSSION BOARD in your respective ELEAP accounts to answer the quiz. You may comment on the discussion board until 12nn of December 9, Sunday.

If 'The Sadness Collector' presents poignantly the problems of a young girl raised by her father while her mother honours overseas contracts abroad, how does this story then of Merlinda Bobis represent the Filipino family in this section?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Readings for the 5th week

The Sadness Collector by Merlinda Bobis

And she will not stop eating, another pot, another plate, another mouthful of sadness, and she will grow bigger and bigger, and she will burst.

On the bed, six-year-old Rica braces herself, waiting for the dreadful explosion- Nothing. No big bang. Because she’s been a good girl. Her tears are not even a mouthful tonight. And maybe their neighbours in the run-down apartment have been careful, too. From every pot and plate, they must have scraped off their left-over sighs and hidden them somewhere unreachable. So Big Lady can’t get them. So she can be saved from bursting.

Every night, no big bang really, but Rica listen anyway.

The house is quiet again. She breathes easier, lifting the sheets slowly from her face – a brow just unfurrowing, but eyes still wary and a mouth forming the old, silent question – are you really there? She turns on the lamp. It is girlie kitsch like the rest of the decor, from the dancing lady wallpaper to the row of Barbie Dolls on a roseate plastic table. The tiny room is all pink bravado, hoping to compensate for the warped ceiling and stained floor. Even the unhinged window flaunts a family pink paper rabbits.

Are you there?

Her father says she never shows herself to anyone. Big Lady only comes where you’re asleep to eat your sadness. She goes from house to house and eats the sadness in many houses, it just keeps on growing each day, so she can’t stop eating, and can’t stop growing too.

Are you really that big? How do you wear your hair?

Dios ko, if she eats all your mess Rica, she might grow too fat and burst, so be a good girl and save her by not being sad – hoy, stop whimpering, I said, and go to bed. Her father is not always patient in his storytelling.

All quite and still now. She’s gone.

Since Rica was three, when her father told her about Big Lady just after mother left for Paris, she has always listened intently to all the night-noises from the kitchen. No, that sound is not the scurrying of mice – she’s actually checking the plates now, lifting the lid off the rice pot, peeking into cups for sadness, both overt and unspoken. To Rica, it always tastes really salty, like tears, even her father’s funny look each time she asks him to read her again the letters from Paris.

She has three boxes of them, one for each year, though the third box is not even half-full. All of them tied with Paris ribbons. The first year, her mother sent all colours of the rainbow for her long, unruly hair maybe because her father did not know how to makes it more graceful. He must have written her long letters, asking about how to pull the mass of curls away from the face and tie them neatly the way he gathered, into some semblance of order, his own nightly longings.

It took some time for him to perfect the art of making a pony-tail. Then he discovered a trick unknown to even the best hairdressers. Instead of twisting the bunch of hair to makes sure it does not come undone before it’s tied, one can rotate the whole body. Rica simply had to turn around in one place, while her father held the gathered hair above her head. Just like dancing, really.

She never forgets talaga naman, the aunties whisper among themselves these days. A remarkable child. She was only a little thing then, but she noticed all, didn’t she, never missed anything committed even details to memory. A very smart kid, but too serious, a sad kid.

They must have guessed that, recently, she has cheated on her promise to behave and save Big Lady. But only on nights when her father come home late and drunk, and refuses to read the old letters from Paris – indeed, she has been a very good girl. She’s six and grown up now, so, even his refusal has multiplied beyond her ten fingers, she always makes sure that her nightly tears remained small and few. Like tonight, when she hoped her father would come home early. As he promised again. Earlier, Rica watched TV to forget, to make sure the tears won’t amount to a mouthful. She hates waiting. Big lady hates that, too, because then shell have to clean up till the early hours of the morning.

Why Paris? Why three years – and even more? Aba. This is getting too much now. The aunties can never agree with her mother’s decision to work there, on a fake visa, as a domestic helper – ay, naku, taking care of other people’s children, while, across the ocean her own baby cries herself to sleep? Talaga naman! She wants to earn good money and build a house. Remember, I only work in a factory... Her father had always defended his wife, until recently, when all talk about her return was shelved. It seems she must extended her stay, because her employer might help her to become “legal”. Then she can come home for a visit and go back there to work some more-

The lid clatters off the pot. Beneath her room, the kitchen is stirring again. Rica sits up on the bed – the big one has returned? But she made sure the pot and plates were clean, even the cups before she went to bed. She turns off the lamp to listen in the dark. Expectant ears, hungry for the phone’s overseas beep. Her mother used to call each month and write her postcards, also along love letters, even if she couldn’t read yet. With happy snaps, of course. Earlier this year, she sent one of herself and the new baby of her employer.

Cutlery noise. Does she also check them? This has never happened before, her coming back after a lean meal. Perhaps, she’s licking a spoon for any trace of saltiness, searching between the prongs of a fork. Unknown to Rica, Big Lady is wise, an old hand in this business. She senses that there’s more to a mouthful of sadness than meets the tongue. A whisper of salt, even the smallest nudge to the palate, can betray a century of hidden grief. Perhaps, she understands that, for all its practice, humanity can never conceal the daily act of futility at the dinner table.

As we feed continually, we also acknowledge the perennial nature of our hunger. Each time we bring food to our mouths, the gut-emptiness that we attempt to fill inevitably contaminates our cutlery, plates, cups, glasses, our whole table. It is this residua; contamination, our individual portions of grief, that she eats, so we do not die from them – but what if we don’t eat? Then we can claim self-sufficiency, a fullness from birth, perhaps. Then we won’t betray our hunger.
But Rica was not philosophical at four years old, when she had to be cajoled, tricked, ordered, then scolded severely before she finished her meal, if she touched it at all. Rica understood her occasional hunger strikes quite simply. She knew that these dinner quarrels with her father, and sometimes her aunties, ensured dire consequences. Each following day, she always made stick drawings of Big lady with an ever-increasing girth, as she was sure the lady had had a big meal the night before.

Mouth curved downward, she’s sad like her meals. No, she wears a smile, she’s happy because she’s always full. Sharp eyes, they can see in the dark, light-bulb eyes, and big teeth for chewing forever. She can hardly walk, because her belly’s so heavy, she’s pregnant with left-overs. No she doesn’t talk, she flies like a giant cloud and she’s not heavy at all, she only looks heavy. And she doesn’t want us to be sad, so she eats all our tears and sighs. But she can’t starve, can she? Of course, she likes sadness, it’s food.

Fascination, fear and a kinship drawn from trying to save each other. Big Lady saves Rica from sadness; Rica saves Big Lady from bursting by not being sad. An ambivalent relationship, confusing, but certainly a source of comfort. And always Big Lady as object of attention. Those days when Rica drew stick-drawings of her, she made sure the big one was always adorned with pretty baubles and make-up. She even drew her with a Paris ribbon to tighten her belly. Then she added a chic hat to complete the picture.

Crimson velvet with a black satin bow. Quite a change from all the girlie kitsch – that her mother had dredged from Paris’ unfashionable side of town? The day it arrived in the mail, Rica was about to turn six. A perfect Parisienne winter hat for a tiny head in the tropics. It came with a blank-draft for her party.

She did not try it on, it looked strange, so different from the Barbies and pink paper rabbits. This latest gift was unlike her mother, something was missing. Rica turned it inside out, searching – on TV, Magic Man can easily pull a rabbit or a dove out of this hat, just like that, always. But this tale was not part of her father’s repertoire. He told her not to be silly when she asked him to be Magic Man and pull out Paris – but can she eat as far as Paris? Can she fly from here to there overnight? Are their rice pots also full of sad leftovers? How salty?

Nowadays, her father makes sure he comes home late each night, so he won’t have to answer questions, especially about the baby photograph. So he need not improvise further on this three-year-old tall tale.

There it is again, the cutlery clunking against a plate – scraping the bottom of a cup? She’s searching for the hidden mouthfuls and platefuls and potfuls. Cupboards are opened. No, nothing there, big one, nothing – Rica’s eyes are glued shut. The sheets rise and fall with her breathing. She wants to leave the bed, sneak into the kitchen and check out this most unusual return and thoroughness.

That’s the rice pot being overturned –

Her breaths make and unmake a hillock on the sheets -

A plate shatters on the floor –

Back to a foetal curl, knees almost brushing chin –

Another plate crashes –

She screams –

The pot is hurled against the wall –

She keeps screaming as she runs out of the bedroom, down to the kitchen –

And the cutlery, glasses, cups, more plates –

Big Lady’s angry, Big Lady’s hungry, Big Lady’s turning the house upside down –

Breaking it everywhere –

Her throat is weaving sound, as if it were all what is ever knew –

“SHUT UP -!”

Big Lady wants to break all to get to the heart of the matter, where it’s saltiest. In the vein of a plate, within the aluminium bottom of a pot, in the copper fold of a spoon, deep in the curve of a cup’s handle –

Ropes and ropes of scream –


Her cheek stings. She collapses on the floor before his feet.

“I didn’t mean to. Dios ko po, I never meant to – “

Her dazed eyes make out the broken plates, the dented pot, the shards of cups, glasses, the cutlery everywhere –

He’s hiccupping drunkenly all over her –

“I didn’t mean to, Rica, I love you, baby, I’ll never let you go – “. His voice hoarse with anger and remorse.

“She came back, Papa – “

“She can’t take you away from me –“

“She’s here again – “

“Just because she’s ‘legal’ now – “

“She might burst, Papa – “

“That whore - !” His hands curl into fists on her back.

Big Lady knows, has always known. This feast will last her a lifetime, if she does not burst tonight.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Thanks to all 4H4 LIT102 students who took time to analyze the poems of the week. The readings that I am posting tonite were all sourced from my email as of 10PM. Apologies to Jared whose reading is not yet posted below. My computer doesn’t support the file you sent me. Please note that I am setting some lines in BOLD to emphasize your interesting take on the text.

ang babaeng nangangarap ng gising
by virgilio almario aka rio alma

The life of a typical Filipina who has experienced a lot of hardships in life. Despite the challenges and struggles she's been through, she still hopes a better life with her husband. She dreams of a peaceful and happy married life. She wants to escape these disappointments and she does it by day-dreaming. She wishes a happy life; she doesn’t want to experience any more pain. She’s been hurt so many times. She wants a perfect life, she may not achieve it in reality but through day dreaming, it gives her the blissful feeling. She’s a strong Filipina who possesses the quality of being patient and martyr. (Mary Christine C. Rojas)

"i think that the poem was written at a time when the country was still on the verge of industrialization and living in the city was at its peak. the woman in the story symbolizes a typical person living in the province that is blinded by the fast life and possibly a better future in the city. this was her ambition. simply put, to live in the city means to live in prosperity. now reality struck her, she got married to a drunkard husband in a home with few to eat. amidst all these, still she closes her eyes and dreams a life with violins playing and with sweet care from her husband." (Don Gaoiran)

pinapahiwatig sa tula na ang babae na tinutukoy sa tula ang naghihirap sa kanyang kalagayan sa kanyang asawa at sa buhay may asawa. pinahiwatig din sa tula na minsan ay nangarap din ang babae na magkaroon ng magarbong pamumuhay at mabait na asawa. (Gerald Perez)

Isang babaeng nakipagsapalaran sa lungsod para patunayan o asamin ang buhay na maginhawa at ang inasahan niyang magbibigay ng ganitong pamumuhay ay ang kanyang prinsipe na makikilala niya sa kanyang pakikipagsapalaran sa buhay. Inakala niyang nasa lungsod ang kasagutan sa kahirapang kinamulatan. Dahil sa lungsod nandoun ang trabaho at oportunidad. Ngunit sa kinasamaang palad bagamat mangmang sa lungsod at uri ng buhay dito, hindi prinsipe ang kanyang nakilala kundi isang lalaking ginamit ang kanyang pagkainosente. Na maaring pinangakuan siya ng magandang kinabukasan ngunit kabaliktaran ng kanyang inaasahan. Huli na ang lahat para linguning muli ang pinangarap na buhay dahil ngayon siya ay kasangkapan na lamang ng asawa kun baga parang "entertainment and maid or worst slave" na lang ang silbi niya.Lungsod pertains to manila where most of the people esp. from the province seeks opportunities. Nagbakasakali siya na suwertehin sa buhay lungsod and umalis sa buhay mahirap. Pero siguro naging mailap ang pagkakataon at sa kanyang pakikipagsapalaran sa lungsod nakilala niya itong isang lalaki na nagpakita ng pagasa at kasagutan. Siguro wala na siyang ibang choice kundi patulan ito. Maaaring mapariwara o wala na talaga siyang ibang mapupuntahan kaya sumama siya sa lalaki at naging asawa nito.
(Ballesteros, Josephine A. 4H4)

para malimutan ng babae ang kanyang nararamdaman hirap at sakit, ibinabaling na lang niya sa pangangarap ng gising ng mga bagay na kanyang inaambisyon. (Go, Marie Tzarina, 4H4)

May isang babaeng probinsyana na nangarap umahon sa kahirapan. Siya ay nakipagsapalaran sa lungsod ngunit sa hindi inaasahang pangyayari, siya ay nadala ng tukso o makamundong pagnanasa. Dahil sa pangyayaring ito, naglaho ang kanyang pangarap. Ngayon, siya na lamang ay nangangarap ng gising. Dahil sa kahirapan at pagkaligaw ng landas, siya ay napilitang gumawa ng masama. Hindi rin maganda ang naging buhay niya sa kanyang asawa. Sa tuwing ang lalaki ay darating, siya ay pipikit at magpapanggap na siya ay sasalubong sa prinsipe niyang lasing at mangangarap ng gising na ang bawat himas ng asawa’y kaginha-ginhawa. Lumalabas na siya ay itinuturing na laruan lamang ng asawang lasing. (Morales, Raisa )

Para sa akin, ang ibig sabhin ng tulang ito ay, may isang babaeng mahirap at lumaki sa malansa at bukid na basa sa isang liblib na nayon, siya'y nangarap na sanay makatagpo sya ng isang prinsipe na maaaring makapagpaganda ng kanyang buhay at mamuhay na parang prinsesa, kaya lunsod ay kanyang tinungo, subalit ang babaeng ito ay bigo sapagkat nilamon sya sa tukso ng lungsod at kanyang natagpuan ay lalaking lasenggero lamang, ang lahat ng kanyang pangarap ay naglaho at ang kanyang mga nais na matupad sa buhay ay hanggang sa pangarap na lamang. (Sandy Rose Arabia)

the girl wanted to get out of the life she is living in the "bukid". the kind of life that her husband gave her, her husband who is a drunkard and who is always away from home. she is dreaming to have a better life. but then when she found out that her husband is coming home from somewhere, she prepared herself while awaiting for her husband. the dreaming girl, though wanting to have a better life still succumbs to the presence of her husband. that she could forget everything for the man she loves. she would do anything for her husband, whom she loves. (-Nathalie Manuel, 4h4)

she’s dreaming of the ideal man for her while she’s cooking. Flashing back to her memories, she promised to herself that she will rise up from the life of an ordinary provincial girl. Hoping that one day, her ideal guy will come and rescue her, she marries a drunkard (Kim Salvador)

Ang Babaeng Namumuhay ng Mag-isa

the woman in the story had a troubled past that had her scarred for life. this incident wrote a false impression on her. she was treated unfairly by the people around her because of her solitude. despite what people call her, she is undaunted that her dreams will be fulfilled and that it will all come true...even if she's separated, an old-maid, a mistress and a whore. (Don Gaoiran)

The poem speaks of the past of an old woman. Binansagan siya ng sari saring pangalan. And the past still haunts her but that doesn't stop her from proving her worth in the society. Lahat ng mga napagdaanan niya ay may mga dahilan na kapag ibinahagi niya sa lipunan mali pa rin o masama para sa kanila. Maaaring sa hirap ng buhay napilitan siyang pumasok sa isang trabahong kinailangang walang malisya o pakikiapid sa iba. Gumamit ng tao para sa kanyang kaginhawahan. Hindi naging maganda ang propesyon o ibang aspeto ng kanyang pamumuhay. Pinili niya ang landas na ito maaari dahil sa kagipitan o kawalan na ng paraan. Inisip niya na kinailangan niyang makasurvive sa hamon ng buhay. Pero kapalit nun ay ang tingin ng tao sa kanya. Gusto niyang pabayaan na siya ng tao at wag ng pagisipan pa ng ibang bagay dahil buhay naman niya ito at siya ang pangunahing aktor ng bawat kabanata. Para sa kanya anong alam ng tao sa totoong istorya ng naging buhay niya. Ipaliwanag man niya may posibilidad ba na mabago ang pagtingin sa kanya?Nakadikit sa kanya ang kanyang prinsipyo. maaring ito ay ang prinsipyo ng pakikipagsapalaran sa buhay na hindi malinaw ang direksyon. (Ballesteros, Josephine A. 4H4)

hindi naman siya isang perpektong tao pero pinipilit niya tumayo sa bawat pagkakamali at pagkukulang. ang estado ng babae sa tula ay naging basehan ng lipunan sa kanyang pagkatao ngunit ang pag-iisa niya ay di naman kasalanan basta wala siyang ibang taong sinasaktan o tinatapakan. (Go, Marie Tzarina, 4H4)

Isang babaeng piniling mamuhay ng mag-isa. Sa pasyang ito, marami ang humusga sa kanyang pagkatao. Marahil ay hindi naging maganda ang kinagisnang pamumuhay o ang kanyang nakaraan kaya’t ganoon na lamang ang pagkutya sa kanyang katauhan. Marami na siyang pagsubok na pinagdaanan na tumimbang at sumuri sa kanyang katauhan. Ang pag-iisa o pagpili sa kalayaan ay bumuo ng paghuhusga sa kanya ng lipunan. Hindi niya tinalikuran ang pag-ibig, pananagutan, pangarap at pag-asa. Ninais niya lamng na magkaroon ng kalayaan na patakbuhin sa kanyang sariling puso at isipan ang kanyang buhay. Ninais niyang mailayo ang katauhan sa pangalang ikinabit sa kanya. Ninais niyang maging malaya at mamuhay ng walang humuhusga sa kanya. (Morales, Raisa)

ang aking interpretasyon sa tula ay tungkol sa babaeng puta o bayaran. o tinatawag nilang bababeng mababa ang lipad. na tila nahusgahan na siya agad at kinukutya ng mga mapanghusgang mata. hindi na siya napagbigyan ng pagkakataon na maipakita kung sino talaga siya at anung klaseng ugali meron siya. (Gerald Perez)

Ang kuwentong ito ay para sa isang babae na namumuhay mag isa at naghihinagpis, naghihinakit dahil sa pagkutya sa kanya ng lipunan, madaming ikinabit sa kanyang pangalan tulad ng kerida, puta, matandang dalaga at hiwalay sa asawa, ang lahat ng ito at totoo, subalit ang hindi alam ng mga taong kumukutya sa kanya ay meron syang dahilan kung bakit sya nagkaganun, sa madaling salita nais lamang ng babaeng ito na sya ang magpatakbo o humawak ng kanyang sarili, magkaroon ng laya, makapag desisyon para sa sarili at yun ang di nauunawaan ng mga taong kumukutya sa kanya, ng mga taong nagkaruon ng kaugnayan sa buhay nya, para sa kanya "ang pag iisa ay di ibig sabihin ng pagtalikod sa mga responsibilidad tulad ng pag-ibig, pagnanasa o pananagutan, hindi ito pagsuko "kundi ang nais lamang nya ay siya ang humubog ng kanyang buong pag katao at mamuhay ng payapa na walang ikinakabit sa kanyang pagkatao tulad ng kerida, puta, matandang dalaga at hiwalay sa asawa. Hiling sa lipunan ay sanay unawain ang kanyang pamumuhay na mag-isa. (Sandy Rose Arabia)

The character in this poem is bitter with her life. She doesn’t want to blame anybody with the life she has right now, it’s her choice, and it’s her decision. All that she is asking is that she doesn’t want to be judge and let her live her own life, a peaceful and normal life. She’s been thru a lot of things but she keeps herself strong and she continues the fight of her life. Maybe, in a way, she’s also asking for forgiveness in all her wrong actions of the past. She doesn’t want to be alone, it’s not her decision but being alone in life is the best thing she can think for herself. (Mary Christine C. Rojas)

i like the message of the poem even though it was about a girl who is not liked by the society because of her social status and the kind of work she had. but then the poem gives us the message that sometimes, it's ok to live alone, without anyone, away from everyone that to live with criticizing people around you. the woman here proved that she is strong even if she failed a couple of times before. that she can live away from all the negative reactions of the people. it's not that she is weak that's why she opted to love alone, but because she just got tired of the people around her who has nothing good to say about her. this time, she wants to live her life on her own, without anybody free from the people. (Nathalie Manuel, 4h4)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Readings for this (4th) week

*Will recap on Manalang Gloria and Dato’s poems.
*Quiz (including Si Richard Gomez at Ang Mito ng Pagkalalaki, at least before the discussion)

Reading Assignment:
Ang Babaeng Nangarap ng Gising by Rio Alma
Babaeng Namumuhay ng Mag-isa y Joy Barrios
The Mats by Francisco Arcellana

ang babaeng nangangarap ng gising
by virgilio almario aka rio alma

Nakayakap siya sa sandok na bali
Nang muling magising
Habang nagtatalo ang subo't sagitsit
Ng tuyo't sinaing.
Kumukutitap pa sa sulok ng mata
Ang planeta't bitwin
Bagama't naglaho ang sintang prinsipe,
Hasmin at palangkin.

Naisumpa niya noong dalagita
Na siya'y aahon
Mula sa malansa at bukid na basa
Ng liblib na nayon;
Kipkip ang pangarap sa isang tampipi,
Hindi lumilingong
Napaangkin siya sa tukso ng lungsod
At bughaw na layon.

Tulad sa isatorya ng ligaw na sisiw,
Pagod na at lanta
Nang kanyang kagatin ang buhay sa isang
Lumang aksesorya.
May nakapagsabing darating nga ngayon
Ang galang asawa
Kaya't maaga pa'y naghanda't naglinis
Saka nagpaganda.

Sa pagbukas ng pinto, siya ay pipikit
Sa saliw ng b'yolin
At magpapalunod sa hasmin at himas
Ng asawang lasing.

ang babaeng namumuhay ng mag-isa
by joi barrios

Babae akong namumuhay nang mag-isa,
hiwalay sa asawa,
matandang dalaga,
Ang aking pag-iisa'y
batik na itinuturing,
latay na pabaon ng nakaraan,
pilat na taglay habambuhay.
May pagsusulit na di ko nakayanan,
may timbangan sumukat sa aking pagkukulang,
may pagsusuring kumilatis
sa pagkatanso ng aking pagkatao.
Lagi'y may paghuhusga sa aking pag-iisa.
Ang di nila nakita'y
akin ang pasya.
Maliit na kalayaang
hinahamak ng iba pang
pagkapiit at pagkaalipin
sa aking lipunan.
Ang pag-iisa'y di pagtalikod sa
pag-ibig, o pagnanasa o pananagutan.
Hindi ito pagsuko
sa katuparan ng mga pangako
o pagkakatutuo ng mga pangarap.
Hindi pagtanaw sa buhay
nang hubad sa pag-asa.
Paghangad lamang
na kamay ko ang magpatakbo sa aking orasan,
puso at isipan ang sumulat ng aking kasaysayan,
sarili ko ang humubog sa aking kabuuan.
Hayaan akong mamuhay nang payapa,
nang hindi ikinakabit sa aking pangalan
ang mga tawag na pagkutya:
matandang dalaga,
hiwalay sa asawa.
Babae man akong namumuhay nang mag-isa.

The Mats
by Franz Arcellana

For the Angeles family, Mr. Angeles’s homecoming from his periodic inspection trips was always an occasion for celebration. But this homecoming- from a trip to the south-was fated to be more memorable than any of the others.

He had written from Mariveles: “I have just met a marvelous mat weaver-a real artist-and I shall have a surprise for you. I asked him to weave a sleeping mat for every one of the family. He is using many different colors, and for each mat the dominant color is that of our respective birthstones. I am sure that the children will be very pleased. I know you will be. I can hardly wait to show them to you.”

Nana Emilia read the letter that morning and again and again every time she had a chance to leave the kitchen. In the evening when all the children are home from school she asked her oldest son, Jose, to read it at the dinner table. The children became very much excited about the mats, and talked about them until late into the night. This she wrote her husband when she labored over a reply to him. For days after that the mats continued to be the chief topic of conversation among children.

Finally, from Lopez, Mr. Angeles wrote again: “I am taking the Bicol Express tomorrow. I have the mats with me, and they are beautiful. God willing, I shall be home to join you at dinner.”
The letter was read aloud during the noon meal. Talk about the mats flared up again like wildfire.

“I like the feel of mats,” Antonio, the third child, said. “I like the smell of new mats.”
“Oh, but these mats are different,” interposed Susanna, the fifth child. “They have our names woven into them, and in our ascribed colors, too.”
The children knew what they were talking about: they knew just what a decorative mat is like; it was not anything new or strange in their experience. That was why they were so excited about the matter. They had such a mat in the house, one they seldom used, a mat older than any one of them.

This mat had been given to Nana Emilia by her mother when she and Mr. Angeles were married, and it had been with them ever since. It had served on the wedding night, and had not since been used except on special occasions.

It was a very meaningful mat not really meant to be ordinarily used. It had green leaf borders and a lot of gigantic red roses woven into it. In the middle, running the whole length of the mat was the lettering:

Emilia y Jaime

The letters were in gold.

Nana Emilia always kept that mat in her trunk. When any one of the family was taken ill, the mat was brought out and the patient slept on it, had it all to himself, Every one of the children had some time in their lives, slept on it; not a few had slept on it more than once.

Most of the time the mat was kept in Nana Emilia’s trunk and when it was taken out and spread on the floor the children were always around to watch. At first there had been only Nana Emilia to see the mat spread. Then a child-a girl- watched with them. The number of watchers increased as more children came.

The mat did not seem to age. It seemed to Nana Emilia always as new as when it had been laid on the nuptial bed. To the children it seemed as new as the first time it was spread before them. The folds and ceases seemed always new and fresh. The smell was always the smell of a new mat. Watching the intricate design was an endless joy. The children’s pleasure at the golden letters, even before they could work out the meaning, was boundless. Somehow they were always pleasantly shocked by the sight of the mat: so delicate and so consummate the artistry of its weave.

Now, taking out that mat to spread had become a kind of ritual. The process had become associated with illness in the family. Illness, even serious illness, had not been infrequent. There had been deaths…

In the evening Mr. Angeles was with his family. He had brought the usual things home with him. There was a lot of fruit, as always (his itinerary carried him through the fruit-growing provinces): pineapples, lanzones, chicos, atis, santol, sandia, guayabano, avocado, according to the season. He had also brought home a jar of preserved sweets from Lopez.

Putting away the fruits, sampling them, was as usual accomplished with animation and lively talk. Dinner was along affair. Mr. Angeles was full of stories about his trip, but would interrupt his tales with: “I could not sleep off nights thinking of the young ones. They should never be allowed to play in the streets. And you older ones should not stay out too late at night.”
The stories petered out and dinner was over. Putting away the dishes and wiping the table clean did not at all seem tedious. Yet Nana Emilia and the children, although they did not show it, were all on edge about the mats.

Finally, after a long time over his cigar, Mr. Angeles rose from his seat at the head of the table and crossed the room to the corner where his luggage had been piled. From the heap he disengaged a ponderous bundle.

Taking it under one arm, he walked to the middle of the room where the light was brightest. He dropped the bundle, and, bending over and balancing himself on his toes, he strained at the cord that bound it. It was strong, it would not break, it would not give way. He tried working at the knots. His fingers were clumsy, they had begun shaking.

He raised his head, breathing heavily, to ask for the scissors ready. Alfonso, his youngest boy, was to one side of him with the scissors ready.

Nana Emilia and her eldest girl, who had long returned from the kitchen, were watching the proceedings quietly.

One swift movement with the scissors, snip! And the bundle was loose.
Turning to Nana Emilia, Mr. Angeles joyfully cried:“These are the mats Miling.”
Mr. Angeles picked up the topmost mat in the bundle.
“This, I believe, is yours, Miling.”

Nana Emilia stepped forward to the light, wiping her still hands against the fold of her skirt, and with a strangely young shyness received the mat. The children watched the spectacle silently, and then broke into delighted, though a little self-conscious, laughter. Nana Emilia unfolded the mat without a word. It was a beautiful mat: to her, mind, even more beautiful than the one she received from her mother on her wedding day. There was a name in the very center of it: Emilia. The letters were large, done in green. Flowers-cadena-de-amor-were woven in and out among the letters. The border was a long winding twig of cadena-de-amor.

The children stood about the spread mat. The air was punctuated by their breathless exclamations of delight.

“It is beautiful, Jaime; it is beautiful!” Nana Emilia’s voice broke and she could not say any more.

“And this, I know, is my own,” said Mr. Angeles of the next mat in the bundle. The mat was rather simply decorated, the design almost austere, and the only colors used were purple and gold. The letters of the name, Jaime, were in purple.

“And this, for you, Marcelina.”

Marcelina was the oldest child. She had always thought her name too long; it had been one of her worries with regard to the mat. “How on earth are they going to weave all of the letters of my name into my mat?” she had asked of almost every one in the family. Now it delighted her to see her whole name spelled out on the mat, even if the letters were a little small. Besides, there was a device above her name which pleases Marcelina very much. It was in the form of a lyre, finely done in three colors. Marcelina was a student of music, and was quite a proficient pianist.

“And this is for you, Jose.”

Jose was the second child. He was a medical student already in third year at the medical school. Over his name the symbol of Aesculapius was woven into the mat.

“You are not to use this until the year of your internship.” Angeles was saying.

“This is yours, Antonio.”

“And this, yours, Juan.”

“And this, yours, Jesus.”

Mat after mat was unfolded. On each of the children’s mat there was somehow an appropriate device.

At last, all the children had been shown their individual mats. The air was filled with their excited talk, and through it all Mr. Angeles was saying over and over again in his deep voice:
“You are not to use these mats until you go to the university.”

Then Nana Emilia noticed bewilderedly that there were some more mats remaining to be unfolded.

“But, Jaime” Nana Emilia said, wonderingly, with evident trepidation, “there are some more mats.”

Only Mr. Angeles seemed to have heard Nana Emilia’s word. He suddenly stopped talking, as if he had been jerked away from a pleasant phantasy. A puzzled, reminiscent look came into his eyes, superseding the deep and quiet delight that had been briefly there, and when he spoke his voice was different.

“Yes, Emilia,” said Mr. Angeles. “There are three more mats to unfold. The others who aren’t here…”

Nana Emilia caught her breath; there was a swift constriction in her throat; her face paled and she could not say anything.

The Self-centered talk of the children also died. There was a silence as Mr. Angeles picked up the first of the remaining mats and begun slowly unfolding it.

The mat was almost as austere in design as Mr. Angeles’s own, and it had a name. There was no symbol or device above the name ; only a blank space, emptiness.

The children knew the name. But somehow the name, the letters spelling the name, seemed strange to them.

Then Nana Emilia found her voice.
“You know, Jaime, you didn’t have to, you didn’t have to.” Nana Emilia said, and her voice was hurt and sorely frightened.

Mr. Angeles jerked his head back; there was something swift and savage in the movement.
“Do you think I’d forgotten? Do you think I had forgotten them? Do you think I could forget them.

“This is for you, Josefina.”

“This is for you, Victoria!

“This is for you, Concepcion.”

Mr. Angeles called the names rather than uttered item.

“Don’t, Jaime, please don’t, ” was all that Nana Emilia managed to say.

“Is it fair to forget them? Would it be just to disregard them?” Mr. Angeles demanded rather than asked.

His voice had risen shrill, almost hysterical; it was also stern and sad, and somehow vindictive.

Mr. Angeles had spoken almost as if he were a stranger.

Also, he had spoken as if from deep, grudgingly silent, long, bewildered sorrow.

The children heard the words exploding in the silence. They could neither move nor look away; his eyes held them, his voice held them where they were. They seemed rooted to the spot.
Nana Emilia shivered once or twice, bowed her head, gripped her clasped hands between her thighs.

There was a terrible hush. The remaining mats were unfolded in silence. The names which were with infinite slowness revealed, seemed strange and stranger still; the colors not bright but deathly dull; the separate letters spelling out the names of the dead among them, did not seem to glow or shine with a festive sheen as did the other living names.

The Dogeaters: Multi Layered Philippines

I post here a review of Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters staged by Atlantis production yesterday at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater at Yuchengco Towers, Makati. The review was written by Walter Ang.

A Multi-Layered Philippines
by Walter Ang

Dogeaters, now playing at the Carlos Romulo Auditorium at RCBC Plaza though the staging of Atlantis Productions, begins with the ensemble cast announcing snippets of news reports, as if an invisible hand was tuning through all the stations of a radio, cleverly bringing the audience into the milieu of the this multi-layered play based on Jessica Hagedorn’s novel of the same title.

The sentences are clipped and the sound weaves in and out, leaving the audience with only enough bits and pieces to make out that the setting is the beginning of the end of the Marcos regime. A plethora of characters and their stories are introduced in the first act and the audience must stay attentive to grasp everything that is going on amidst the textured set designed by Kalila Aguilos. Smack in the middle of the galvanized iron sheets and barbed wire is a massive portrait of the former First Lady Imelda Marcos, whose off-stage ministrations, such as the construction of a film center and organizing a film festival, are a constant onstage presence that inexorably help bring the plot threads together.

Mirroring how many of the characters seem to be on the periphery of bigger events around them, however close to falling in to or quietly orchestrating the fray they are, the audience is made to feel like expectant voyeurs with all of the scenes being annotated by two broadcaster-announcer personalities Nestor Norales (a dapper Leo Rialp) and Barbara Villanueva (played with gusto by Ana Abad-Santos). Much like the long running radio soap opera hosted by these announcers, the play unfolds in snatches of scenes where tawdry gossip and dangerous secrets are revealed. The cast is populated by a wonderful mix of actors popular in TV and movies such as Michael de Mesa, Gina Alejar and Joel Torre as well as theater stalwarts like Rialp, Abad-Santos and Richard Cunanan with up-and-coming Philippine High School for the Arts alumnus Nicco Manalo in a convincing turn as a drugged-out Amerasian hustler. Directed by Bobby Garcia, all sixteen actors take on double or triple roles. Not to be missed is the fun and fabulous Diana Ross impersonation by Jon Santos, the scene-stealing thunder of Rez Cortez and the subtle but sure changes that Abad-Santos imbues her character as the play progresses.

The multitude of subplots soon builds up to the assassination of Benigno Aquino-inspired Senator Domingo Avila (Joel Torre), revealing two characters, his beauty pageant winner-turned-rebel daughter Daisy (Jenny Jamora) and witness-to-the-assassination Joey Sands (Nicco Manalo), to stand out and drive home the near epic story in a poignant, though somewhat curtailed, encounter. For those of in the audience who lived through or grew up in the 70s and 80s, the stories in Dogeaters are at once familiar yet blurred, distinct yet fractured. Watching the play becomes an exercise in gaining perspective on the events that inspired the veiled retellings onstage as filtered by time and through the playwright’s distance from where they actually happened. Though it seems some scenes would have worked better if the dialogue were in Tagalog instead of English, it only goes to build on the fact that Dogeaters is decidedly a vision of the Philippines in Hagedorn’s voice. As a counterpoint to the play’s insane, colorful array of drugs, guns, power, sex, politics, religion and everything in between, Hagedorn’s alter-ego Rio Gonzaga (Teresa Herrera) provides the concluding commentary. The balikbayan, who returns after more than a decade of being away and is lost in the middle of it all, points out that “everything is different but nothing has changed.”

To The Man I Married by Angela Manalang Gloria

Angela Manalang Gloria's poem, "To the Man I Married," metaphorically portrays her love for her husband by comparing her need for him to her need for the earth.

Angela Manalang Gloria’s "To the Man I Married" is a combination English/Italian sonnet: it consists of an octave with the rime scheme ABABCDCD and in the sestet EFEFGG.
The overall rime-scheme is that of the English sonnet, but instead of three quatrains and a couplet, it features the octave and sestet. Part II consists of two rimed quatrains with the rime scheme ABAB, ACDC.

In the octave, the speaker makes the bold claim addressing the man she married: "You are my earth and all that earth implies." The speaker’s claim alerts the reader to a metaphorical comparison: the addressee is her earth.

And just what does "earth" imply? Because the person is her earth, he supplies her necessities for life:

"air" that she breathes, the fertile soil where her food is grown.

"gravity that ballasts me in space,"

He gives her direction by his "orbit" that "marks [her] way / And sets [her] north and south, [her] east and west."

As most octaves in Italian sonnets do, this octave has offered a thought that will receive a twist in the sestet. While the octave implies a very close and sustaining relationship between the speaker and her husband, the sestet asserts that that closeness does not completely satisfy all of the needs of the speaker as an individual: "If in your arms that hold me now so near / I lift my keening thoughts to another one."

Even as she acknowledges her close, nurturing relationship with her husband, she finds that she needs "another one," because of her "keening thoughts." And then she metaphorically compares herself to a tree whose roots though "long rooted to the earth" raise their "leaves and flowers to the sun."

She needs the earth, but she also needs the sky, just as the earth does, just as trees need the sun. That does not diminish her love for and attachment to her husband, who is her earth. The speaker wants to make that fact quite clear so she repeats her claim

"You who are earth, O never doubt that I / Need you no less because I need the sky."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Week 3 Reading Assignment

attention: AB(POL SCI) class and MWF 5-6pm (HRM) class

sorry guys! i just found out that i do not have a soft copy of "Richard Gomez at Ang Mito ng Pagkalalaki." Unfortunately, it's also not available on the web. Please secure a copy for next week. Here is Luis Dato's The Spouse and Angela Manalang Gloria's To the man I married. Be sure to have your individual copies on Monday. I will check.

The Spouse
by Luis Dato

Rose in her hand, and moist eyes young with weeping,
She stands upon the threshold of her house,
Fragrant with scent that wakens love from sleeping,
She looks far down to where her husband plows.

Her hair dishevelled in the night of passion,
Her warm limbs humid with the sacred strife,
What may she know but man and woman fashion
Out of the clay of wrath and sorrow—Life?

She holds no joys beyond the day’s tomorrow,
She finds no worlds beyond her love’s embrace;
She looks upon the Form behind the furrow,
Who is her Mind, her Motion, Time and Space.

O somber mystery of eyes unspeaking,
O dark enigma of Life’s love forlorn;
The Sphinx beside the river smiles with seeking
The secret answer since the world was born.

To the Man I Married
by Angela Manalang Gloria

You are my earth and all the earth implies:
The gravity that ballasts me in space,
The air I breathe, the land that stills my cries
For food and shelter against devouring days.
You are the eart whose orbit marks my way
And sets my north and south, my east and west,
You are the final, elemented clay
The driven heart must turn to for its rest.

If in your arms that hold me now so near
I lift my keening thoughts to Helicon
As trees long rooted to the eart uprear
Their quickening leaves and flowers to the sun,
You who are earth, O never doubt that I
Need you no less because I need the sky!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Philippine Contemporary Fiction

Prior to the 1920’s, Philippine short stories are better classified as tales rather than stories, mostly ghost tales or folktales explaining natural phenomena with a theme in which a moral was brought home to the reader. Plot structure was worked along the easy, chronological, “and then” method, to use E.M. Froster’s terminology. The short-story writers of that era drew mostly on Western culture and Western models.

By the 1930’s the market for the Philippine short stories in English was no longer confined solely to the home front but had started to break into print abroad as well. Among the prominent writers were Paz Marquez Benitez, Paz Latorena, Arturo B. Rotor, Amador Daguio, Loreto Paras Sulit, Carlos Bulosan, and Manuel Arguilla. Bienvenido Santos and N.V.M Gonzales, although writing at that time, were not to gain wider recognition and a larger audience until after World War II. The years immediately before the war were characterized by a desire to create a “national literature”, not merely by writing about simple rustic life, Philippine flora and fauna, and Philippine national heroes, but by attempting to define the national psyche or identity, however evasive that might be.

By the end of the 1930’s the Philippine short story had already improved in quality, offering plausible characterization, a stricter control of language, and interesting situations and themes. The “modern” short story (in the sense of “contemporary” or “twentieth century”) was not to be written until after the war.

Manuel Arguilla, who died before the war, wrote the most significant prewar collection, How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife and Other Stories, exemplifying a dynamic tension between social commitment and artistic excellence – the objective of good literature both before the war and for all time. The social not was pursued in Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart, in the choice of subject matter and characters like the peasants and the laborers, and in the portrayal of the effects of politics on the private lives of people, the interrelation between economic conditions and political power.

N.V.M. Gonzales began writing in the 1930’s, but his first short-story collection was not published until 1947, when Seven Hills Away appeared. Other distinguished collections followed, all products of serious artistic effort and of an artistic creed which upheld the belief that art must involve working with material (a serious craft) and must be a thing of beauty (artistic/form). The social note in Gonzalez’s fiction never called attention to itself and never took precedence over the artistic objective, and Gonzalez was long considered the supreme craftsman, training many of his students at the University of the Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas always to labor with loving attention over every line and detail.

Likewise, Francisco Arcellana started literary career before the war, but his influence and reputation as one of the Philippines’ finest writers did not spread until after the war. His artistic ingenuity is most apparent in Divide by Two, with its strong emotional impact, its subtle manipulation of symbols, and the powerful rhythm of its language. Bienvenido Santos was another prewar youth and postwar writer whose first book of short stories, You Lovely People, about Filipino exiles in America during the war, was not published until well after the war’s end in 1955. Like Gonzalez and Arcellana, he wrote mostly about loneliness, alienation, and homesickness, all postwar maladies. And of course there was Nick Joaquin, who stood above his contemporaries both as craftsman and as cultural historian. His mastery of the language is manifested in his flexible style, one that could be lush and exuberant one moment, slangy or colloquial and very contemporary the next, depending on his subject, his vision matched only by a creative power that was quite unsurpassed in its sense of history, tradition, and art.
Gregorio Brillantes, in his volume of short fiction titled Distance to Andromeda and in other short stories, wrote particularly about the generation under thirty, adolescent and postadolescent youths who suffered alienation from family, from society, and from themselves. Brillantes writes with a sure hand, frequently offering rich insights about the Catholic faith as it illumines the lives of countless Filipino families.

These were the big names in the field of the short story, the artists who never used their art as a tool for social and political propaganda. More than mere preoccupation with form, their writing showed that they had significant truths to express and personal visions to share. More names shone on the horizon: Kerima Tuvera, Gilda Cordero Fernando, Aida Rivera Ford, Juan Gatbonton, and Andres Cristobal Cruz, to name but a few.

The 1960’s were, summarily, a period when writers seriously grappled with problems of art. The early 1970’s saw a proliferation of politically motivated or committed writing and protest literature. Short-story writers became more conscious of the political milieu and of social issues in the wake of the increased activism all over the world and right in their country, especially during the troubled days of a dictatorial government. Some of the more recent fiction writers include Paulino Lim, Alfred Yuson, Jose Dalisay, Mario Eric Gamalinda, and Cristina P. Hidalgo.
In the meantime, what about the novelists? The war provided postwar novelists with a subject. Stevan Javellana’s Without Seeing the Dawn focuses on an antiheroic protagonist hardened and embittered by the war, but ultimately vindicating himself and becoming almost heroic in the process. Edilberto Tiempo, the fiction writer and critic, wrote with an awareness of social history but remained strictly formalistic in his firm grasp of craft and his handling of history. Bienvenido Santos worked with a sense of pathos, irony, and realism, and took up the theme of personal and sociocultural alienation, especially among Filipinos stranded in America during the war, suffering from intense homesickness but somehow managing to endure with strength and fortitude and “loveliness” of spirit.

Francisco Sionil Jose’s monumental Rosales saga, which is made up of five novels, has, more than any other series of works, touched on this Filipino search for roots, as well as on struggle, social corruption, and the fight for social justice in postcolonial times. No other writer has been more widely translated on his own country and other countries. N.V.M. Gonzalez’s novels also reflect discipline, control, and irony, best reflected in his portrayal of the harsh world of the fisherfolk and peasants who endured and prevailed with dignity and grace in the face of pressure and want. His novels are manifestations of reality turned art.

Recent novelists have ventured into the murky terra incognita of postmodernism, rejecting the traditional concepts of fiction, portraying a world devoid of value and meaning, interweaving literature with journalism, history, biography, and even criticism. The objective is merely “pleasure of the text” through verbal or psychological constructs, a totality of vision. Examples of such avant-garde Filipino fictionists are Mario Eric Gamalinda, Jessica Hagedorn, and Alfred Yuson, to name but three of the more prominent figures.

Meanwhile, the influence of literature in the country is imperiled by the impact of modern technology on life and culture, and the Filipino writer feels it his responsibility to put literature back on track and in the center of life, aware of the perpetual need to upgrade and transform it into a meaningful social yet artistically forward-moving activity, opening up to a large interdependent world, listening to the polyphony of voices which could add to their own largeness of spirit and understanding, aware that they cannot continue to write in isolation, that each of the writings of all writers of the world is but a mere episode within that one general experience of the universal person forever in the process of unfolding and evolving.

(Required Reading! I post here Dr. Ophelia Dimalanta's Introduction to Philippine Contemporary Fiction which appeared in OAD Reader Vol. 2, 2006. Ma'am Ophie's Introduction is educational and more than worth your while.)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Literary Glossary

setting the time and place of the action in a story, poem, or play.

(authorial time is distinct from plot time and reader time, authorial time denotes the influence that the time in which the author was writing had upon the conception and style of the text.)

in medias res "in the midst of things"; refers to opening a story in the middle of the action, necessitating filling in past details by exposition or flashback.

flashback a plot-structuring device whereby a scene from the fictional past is inserted into the fictional present or dramatized out of order.


plot/plot structure the arrangement of the action.

plot summary a description of the arrangement of the action in the order in which it actually appears in a story. The term is popularly used to mean the description of the history, or chronological order, of the action as it would have appeared in reality. It is important to indicate exactly in which sense you are using the term.

plot time the temporal setting in which the action takes place in a story or play.


exposition that part of the structure that sets the scene, introduces and identifies characters, and establishes the situation at the beginning of a story or play. Additional exposition is often scattered throughout the work.

rising action the second of the five parts of plot structure, in which events complicate the situation that existed at the beginning of a work, intensifying the conflict or introducing new conflict.

falling action the fourth part of plot structure, in which the complications of the rising action are untangled.

turning point the third part of plot structure, the point at which the action stops rising and begins falling or reversing. Also called climax.

conclusion the fifth part of plot structure, the point at which the situation that was destabilized at the beginning of the story becomes stable once more.


(1) a fictional personage who acts, appears, or is referred to in a work;
(2) a combination of a person’s qualities, especially moral qualities, so that such terms as "good" and "bad," "strong" and "weak," often apply.

major (main) characters those characters whom we see and learn about the most.

minor characters those figures who fill out the story but who do not figure prominently in it.

hero/heroine the leading male/female character, usually larger than life, sometimes almost godlike.

protagonist the main character in a work, who may be male or female, heroic or not heroic. protagonist is the most neutral term.

antagonist a neutral term for a character who opposes the leading male or female character. also the villain.


characterization the fictional or artistic presentation of a fictional personage. A term like "a good character" can, then, be ambig-uous—it may mean that the personage is virtuous or that he or she is well presented regardless of his or her characteristics or moral qualities.

flat character a fictional character, often but not always a minor character, who is relatively simple; who is presented as having few, though sometimes dominant, traits; and who thus does not change much in the course of a story.

round characters complex characters, often major characters, who can grow and change and "surprise convincingly"—that is, act in a way that you did not expect from what had gone before but now accept as possible, even probable, and "realistic."

stereotype a characterization based on conscious or unconscious assumptions that some one aspect—such as gender, age, ethnic or national identity, religion, occupation, marital status, and so on—is predictably accompanied by certain character traits, actions, even values.
persona and personality

persona the voice or figure of the author who tells and structures the story and who may or may not share the values of the actual author.

personality that which distinguishes or individualizes a person; its qualities are judged not so much in terms of their moral value, as in "character," but as to whether they are "pleasing" or "unpleasing."


narrator the character who "tells" the story.

first-person narrator a character, "I," who tells the story and necessarily has a limited point of view; may also be an unreliable narrator.

second-person narrator a character, "you," who tells the story and necessarily has a limited point of view; may be seen as an extension of the reader, an external figure acting out a story, or an auditor; may also be an unreliable narrator.

third-person narrator a character, "he" or "she," who "tells" the story; may have either a limited point of view or an omniscient point of view; may also be an unreliable narrator.

The unreliable narrator
unreliable narrator a speaker or voice whose vision or version of the details of a story are consciously or unconsciously deceiving; such a narrator’s version is usually subtly undermined by details in the story or the reader’s general knowledge of facts outside the story. If, for example, the narrator were to tell you that Magellan was Spanish and that he discovered Manila in the fourteenth century when his ship Victoria landed on the coast of Boracay near present-day Palawan, you might not trust other things he tells you.

implied author the guiding personality or value system behind a text; the implied author is not necessarily synonymous with the actual author

voice the acknowledged or unacknowledged source of a story’s words; the speaker; the "person" telling the story.

Focus and point of view

focus the point from which people, events, and other details in a story are viewed. This term is sometimes used to include both focus and voice.

point of view also called focus; the point from which people, events, and other details in a story are viewed.

omniscient point of view also called unlimited point of view; a perspective that can be seen from one character’s view, then another’s, then another’s, or can be moved in or out of any character’s mind at any time. Organization in which the reader has access to the perceptions and thoughts of all the characters in the story.

limited point of view or limited focus a perspective pinned to a single character, whether a first-person-or a third-person-centered consciousness, so that we cannot know for sure what is going on in the minds of other characters; thus, when the focal character leaves the room in a story we must go, too, and cannot know what is going on while our "eyes" or "camera" is gone. A variation on this, which generally has no name and is often lumped with the omniscient point of view, is the point of view that can wander like a camera from one character to another and close in or move back but cannot (or at least does not) get inside anyone’s head and does not present from the inside any character’s thoughts.

unlimited point of view also called omniscient point of view; a perspective that can be seen from one character’s view, then another’s, then another’s, or can be moved in or out of any character’s mind at any time. Organization in which the reader has access to the perceptions and thoughts of all the characters in the story.

centered (central) consciousness a limited third-person point of view, one tied to a single character throughout the story; this character often reveals his or her inner thoughts but is unable to read the thoughts of others.


(1) a generalized, abstract paraphrase of the inferred central or dominant idea or concern of a work;
(2) the statement a poem makes about its subject.

(1) the concrete and literal description of what a story is about;
(2) the general or specific area of concern of a poem—also called topic; (3) also used in fiction commentary to denote a character whose inner thoughts and feelings are recounted
genre the largest category for classifying literature—fiction, poetry, drama.

motif a recurrent device, formula, or situation that deliberately connects a poem with common patterns of existing thought.

canon when applied to an individual author, canon (like oeuvre) means the sum total of works written by that author. When used generally, it means the range of works that a consensus of scholars, teachers, and readers of a particular time and culture consider "great" or "major." This second sense of the word is a matter of debate since the literary canon in Europe and America has long been dominated by the works of white men. During the last several decades, the canon in the United States has expanded considerably to include more works by women and writers from various ethnic and racial backgrounds.

Tragedy a drama in which a character (usually a good and noble person of high rank) is brought to a disastrous end in his or her confrontation with a superior force (fortune, the gods, social forces, universal values), but also comes to understand the meaning of his or her deeds and to accept an appropriate punishment. Often the protagonist’s downfall is a direct result of a fatal flaw in his or her character.

high (verbal) comedy humor that employs subtlety, wit, or the representation of refined life.

low (physical) comedy humor that employs burlesque, horseplay, or the representation of unrefined life.

memory devices also called mnemonic devices; these devices—including rhyme, repetitive phrasing, and meter—when part of the structure of a longer work, make that work easier to memorize.

imagery broadly defined, any sensory detail or evocation in a work; more narrowly, the use of figurative language to evoke a feeling, to call to mind an idea, or to describe an object.

irony a situation or statement characterized by a significant difference between what is expected or understood and what actually happens or is meant. See cosmic irony, dramatic irony, and situational irony.

sourced from w.w. norton and company